TORONTO - Conversations with Andrea Frizon can take a while. Words don’t come easily. The best way is to sit across from her and hold out both hands. She will lightly lay her hands on yours then withdraw them. Ask her questions that call for a choice and indicate the choice with your hands. “Does painting make you happy (indicate your right hand) or unhappy (indicate your left).” Andrea chooses the right hand with a light touch.

Published in Features

WINDSOR, ONT. - Deborah Kloos believes that healing can come not just through prayer but art.

Published in Canada

VATICAN CITY - The Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums has released a smartphone app to help culture enthusiasts learn about the works owned by the Holy See — and as a novel way of encouraging art lovers to help fund restoration.

Published in Arts News

TORONTO - People go to hospital in the hope of feeling better. But if patients are welcomed into a forbidding, institutional room with a strange bed, fluorescent lights and cold, hard floor, what then?

Published in Arts News

TORONTO - Sr. Rose Pacatte is first and foremost a storyteller. In her 47 years as a Daughter of St. Paul, she has great stories about answering her call to consecrated life, the joy she shares with her fellow sisters and the opportunities her congregation has given her.

Published in Arts News

TORONTO - Franck Waille still has the posture of a dancer. When he stands, his back is straight, his shoulders are squared and his feet are pointed out — a more relaxed version of ballet’s first position.

Published in Arts News

SASKATOON - Many factors contribute to a positive healing experience at a hospital, including medical expertise and respectful and compassionate care by physicians, health care personnel, staff and volunteers. But for patients at St. Paul’s Hospital, where core values include holistic care, the process of healing the body, mind and spirit is enhanced through art.

Published in Arts News

Jed Malitz appends V2 to the name of his art gallery in New Orleans’ Warehouse District. The V2 stands for “Version 2” — both in art and in life.

Published in Arts News

VATICAN CITY - Having so much world-famous art housed in Rome's churches and chapels has risked turning the city's sacred spaces into sightseer circuses. A hushed prayerful atmosphere for the faithful is often broken by clicking cameras and tourists exchanging guidebook details.

Published in Arts News

TORONTO - If you get up close, within centimetres of Br. Emmaus O’Herlihy’s monumental painting of Christ the King, you may see a tear descending from Jesus’ left eye. Or you might not.

Published in Education

CALGARY - Newlyweds Christopher and Jacinta Pecora met in 2008 at a friend’s pork roast. They hit it off after discovering their mutual interest in art, and their common Catholic faith solidified the connection.

Chris is a graphic designer and Jacinta is a print maker. This past summer, the 25-year-olds were married, a union filled with a love of art and strengthened by their mutual God-given artistic talents.

Both grew up creating art and pursued these passions in post-secondary education. Chris studied graphic design at the University of Lethbridge and Jacinta studied fine arts at the University of Calgary.

Art is “part of who we are, it’s a similarity that we can share, along with our faith,” Jacinta said.

Now that they are young professionals, they have begun to use their talents for the good of others and the Church.

Chris recently started his own graphic design company. At Chris Pecora Graphic Design, his clients are as diverse as a bike shop in San Francisco to a coffee company in Calgary. He also has a number of Catholic clients. He designs posters, graphics and logos for clients such as the diocese of Calgary, Catholic Christian Outreach and Clearwater Academy, a private Catholic school in Calgary.

But Chris finds that many Catholic organizations don’t prioritize on graphic design, so he ensures that he brands his designs in such a way that they appeal to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. By creating posters, ads and web sites that look both artistic and modern, Chris is able to endow these organizations with a competitive edge. For example, he designed promotional posters for FaithLife Conferences that happen every two months in the Calgary diocese. These eye-catching posters show what the conference is about without a preachy feeling.
Chris attributes his success to God.

“I feel like God is allowing me to do this,” he said. “I trust that what I’m making is from God.”

Chris thanks divine inspiration for his work.

“(The idea) starts as something from me and then working through it, suddenly these things that are way smarter than me kind of just appear.”

Jacinta, instead of working with organizations, works with individuals. As a facilitator at Prospect, a human services organization in Calgary, she teaches adults with developmental disabilities different forms of art such as painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography and drawing. She is required to look for moments throughout the day to help teach her students life skills and set goals so they can eventually be employed.

Jacinta turns to the grace of God to help her be patient with the sometimes-challenging behaviours that her clients exhibit.

“It’s not a daily struggle for me to go through my day, whereas for some of them it’s a physical struggle or for some of them it’s a mental struggle,” she said.

In turn, her students teach her to be more appreciative of her life.

“I am grateful for what God has blessed me with,” she said.

In pursuing her own art, Jacinta allows God to inspire and direct her.

“I get really nervous every time I make something. Every new project is a little bit intimidating,” she said. So she prays. “If I didn’t, I would be so nervous I wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Jacinta’s medium is a traditional form of printmaking called etching. She creates art to express herself and experiences she has had.

The fact that both she and her husband are artists helps them to understand and encourage each other in a deeper way, with both their art and their faith.

Two years ago, Jacinta worked with the Sisters of Charity in Calcutta. They inspired her to create prints based on this experience, and Chris encouraged her with ideas on how to create significant art from this faith-based trip.

The couple also create art together to inspire others, and their collaboration brings them closer together. To a close friend of theirs who recently was ordained to the priesthood, Chris and Jacinta gave a quote from Pope Benedict XVI burnt into wood.

“It makes the whole process of creating less daunting just to know that I have someone I can talk to about these ideas,” Chris said, “because art is a very personal thing, you have to be vulnerable, but I have my wife and I can tell her.”

For both Christopher and Jacinta, the type of work they do is dictated by their faith.

“I’ve turned down work that is not in line with my faith, if what the client is asking me to do isn’t really congruent with my beliefs,” Chris said.

“We can have these discussions so that things that we create would never go against our morals, and we can support each other in that,” said Jacinta.

They are working in the world, but according to Jacinta their mutual understanding and faith “keeps us accountable and in check about how we want to live and have people see our work.”

They keep in mind the letter Pope John Paul II wrote to artists in 1999.

“(Our work) should always glorify God one way or another,” Chris said paraphrasing the Pope. “It is a positive, hopeful Catholic perspective.”

The letter also states that God created man and woman in His own image, for each other, and then sent them to create not only in the familial sense, but also in the other vocations they are called to. So through their work with Catholic and humanitarian organizations, Chris and Jacinta abide by John Paul II’s request to “not to waste this talent but to develop it, in order to put it at the service of their neighbour and of humanity as a whole.”

Published in Youth Speak News

My younger brother isn’t what I would call “cultured.” An 18-year-old on a boat cruise around Europe has priorities other than discovering the famous basilicas or the incredible detail in their paintings and sculptures. Before our trip last month, my mom and I talked a lot about whether or not Aidan would care to see — much less appreciate — all of the sights. How much groaning could we put up with while we bounced between pieces of history in these old Europeans cities? A fair bit, it turns out.

But something changed when we visited the Vatican. The complaining gave way to a flurry of questions our tour guide tried to answer before my brother interrupted with another question. He forgot how tired and hungry he was, how much his feet hurt or how comfy his bed was back on the cruise ship. He was totally immersed in the magnificence of the city. It seemed obvious to him that St. Peter’s Basilica wasn’t just another old church.

But that’s exactly what it is: an old church. St. Peter’s just happens to be a very important old church. After all, the entire state of the Vatican was built around it.  

The Vatican’s importance as the epicentre of our Catholic faith is lost on most 18-year-olds. They may know some details, but it’s much tougher to grasp the weight they carry. I thought the Vatican was just another old church too.

When I looked at pictures of St. Peter’s Basilica, I could see it was big, but I couldn’t see it was magnificent until I was standing in it. Similarly, a Google image search of the Sistine Chapel won’t make you feel the way you do when you’re looking with your neck craned back at the scenes painted on the ceiling. You don’t see the care, detail or incredible talent it took to create it. You don’t feel the intangible, indescribable something that makes the Vatican more than a big church until you walk through its museums and feel it for yourself.

It’s the art that creates this wonder. “It makes you think about human potential,” our tour guide mused while looking at the detail along every foot of the ceiling in St. Peter’s. People — young people in particular — are drawn in by it.

Amidst all the facts about the scaffolds they used or Michelangelo’s age when he carved the Pieta, there is a narrative. The art tells the story of our faith, capturing its divine messages and old parables. The art creates the questions which lead to discussion. Questions like why was the man who pierced the side of Christ canonized?

From there, the messages of our faith spread between curious onlookers, even after they leave the city. The difference between the art of the Vatican and many other efforts to spread the same messages is one of esthetics. The art gives onlookers only two options: stand in silent admiration or ask questions about it.

But the answer is just a bonus. Spiritual enrichment comes from all the people there who are doing the same thing. There is a sense of solidarity that transcends age, race, sex and even religion. Anyone can appreciate the art, regardless of whether they subscribe to the beliefs embedded in its narrative. That is what makes the city holy. That’s why St. Peter’s is more than just another old church.

Published in YSN: Speaking Out

LIMA, Peru - Half-hidden behind palm trees at the end of a once elegant avenue in a now rundown neighborhood, the Convento de los Descalzos -- the Convent of the Barefoot Friars -- has witnessed half a millennium of Peruvian history.

Age, economic woes and benign neglect have taken their toll, and the convent has fallen on hard times. But Alberta Alvarez, the director of a foundation established less than a year ago to revitalize the convent, is trying to change that.

Published in Arts News

TORONTO - While getting a tattoo may not be considered the holiest practice, it shouldn’t always be perceived as devilish.

“Religious tattoos are a sign of faith,” said Jason Gennaro, creator of religioustattoos.net. “Those who tattoo themselves with Christian symbols of faith are displaying a belief that many try to subjugate and hide.”

A father of five, devoted husband and faithful Catholic, Gennaro currently has 18 tattoos, 14 of which directly link to his faith. The other four need a little explanation to expose the religious relevance which Gennaro insists exists. “My tattoo choices are the result of prayer,” said Gennaro. “I will be struck by something I read in a book or see in a church. I take those items to prayer and let my conversations with God guide me.”

Published in Features

Engaging in a retreat often suggests a certain solitude while withdrawing from the world to contemplate and renew. The summer programs at Living Water College in Derwent, Alta. combine both mental and spiritual renewal with intensive arts studies to create unique experiences.

College president Deacon Kenneth Noster describes the programs as a “a great opportunity to develop skills, while refreshing your mind and spirit amidst some of Alberta's most beautiful countryside.”

“No matter what your faith background, you will grow here,” he said.

The college has enlisted instructors with an impressive range of experience to teach two courses — Iconography and Sacred Polyphony — being offered in July and August respectively. In keeping with Living Water's central tenets (art, faith and reason) the courses are designed to promote artistic and spiritual growth.

“That's one of the reasons why we've crafted the course the way we have,” said instructor Frank C. Turner, who has been studying  iconography since 1991. “You can learn the physical techniques of iconography, and you can get okay results. But icon is a prayer.

“As Thomas Aquinas says: 'Prayer is the raising of the mind and heart to God.' Iconography is the raising of inanimate substances to the glory of God. And so that's a prayer.”

Part of the iconography experience involves creating an egg tempera paint solution by mixing one part liquid egg yolk, two parts white wine and essence of lavender. That particular mixture, which pre-dates Christianity, was taught to Turner by master iconographer Fr. Gianluca Busi while studying in Italy.

“In many ways, I mean, I have a great devotion to iconography because of the subject, but the little techniques within the process are very fascinating,” Turner said. “I really enjoy making my egg emulsion every time.”

Turner believes artistic workshops set in a religious context work much better than those that are simply a craft workshop.

Sacred Polyphony is similar. The course seeks to explore some of the Church's oldest musical repertoire through polyphony and Gregorian chant. Maestro Uwe Lieflander, the instructor, has a strong musical pedigree, having studied at the Regensburg Akademie für Kirchenmusik in Germany and at The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

In addition to studying the complexities of the music, which formed the foundation for choral music as we know it today, students perform Franz Schubert's second setting of the Latin Mass, his Mass in G major, as well as Vivaldi's Gloria. Both works provide opportunity for vocal coaching for singers of all levels and solo work for professionals.

Both the iconography and polyphony programs combine a spiritual element with a precise study of two of the Church's oldest and most celebrated art forms.

Published in Arts News
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